I ate my wafer...


Common Cup v. Intinction v. Shot Glasses

So, I went to my parent's church this morning, and received the standard disposable plastic shot glass full of decent white wine. The service, unfortunately dragged a bit long, so I started thinking about possibility of disease spreading via common cup communion, and I want feedback on the following thoughts:

A. Harmful, and easilly contagious bacteria have been found on the surface of previously sterile common cups after use. Arguments based on the sanitizing powers of silver, alcohol, or various wine chemicals are clearly erroneous. It is generally accepted that ethanol is most effective at saintizing with a 75% concentration, and contact times in excess of 10 minutes (standard homebrewing practice is 20-30 minute contact times). Likewise, it takes a significant amount of time for a cup to leach sliver ions, and for the ions to poison individual bacteria. (A mere silver vessel should not be confused with silver ion producing chemicals, or generating devices). As to the various antiseptic chemicals found in wine, they have fairly long sanitation times, and as everyone knows, wine can support bacteria (Acetobacter makes wine into vinegar, for example). The "rotate the cup and wipe" argument sounds suspicously pre-lister, and ignore the survival times of the various bacteria when exposed to air, and that amount of bacteria that cling to a wiped surface.

B. Intinction is (arguably) no more safe, and possibly less so.

C. The risk of transmitting infectious agents through the common cup exists. It is probably a very small risk, most of the time, for healthy indivduals. It however exists, and is completely eliminated by the use of the shot glasses.


  • 1. It's too small of a risk to worry about. The germ-phobia and hypocondria be damned.

    2. The theological problems of the plastic shot glasses out way the health benefits.

    3. Anyone who's ill or worried about it can always partake of the bread only - this is an acceptable practice in western churches.

    By Blogger Daniel Silliman, at 1:55 AM  

  • 1. Most of the time, yes. All the time, hard to say. It is a matter that depends pretty heavilly on what exact contaminants are present, how good the preist is, etc.

    2. It was not an accident that I left out theological considerations. It is a matter that I made little or no attention to until yesterday morning, and the few preists and ministers that I have heard discuss the topic are woefully ignorant of theology anyway. (Example: one of them (ELCA Lutheran) thinks that hell is just a convenient child-rearing device to scare bad kids, and and doesn't exist.) Oddly, the majority of things I have heard about the topic were pretty damn silly microbiology based arguments from laypeople. I would love to have someone lay out the theological arguments...mainly because I'm lazy and I probably won't bother to research it otherwise.

    3. Perhaps, though I've seen a number of preists REALLY balk at that, and sometimes refuse. (I have some family members that have been known to want that.)

    By Blogger Bob, at 11:42 AM  

  • I can't imagine having a "chalice bearer" come up to me with a tray full of plastic shot glasses like a shot girl at a club or a nurse dispensing medication to the infirm. Something about that just seems wrong.

    By Blogger TheAmber, at 2:21 PM  

  • I think we should all pause for a moment and ask ourselves, "What would Jebus do?"

    By Blogger Krupa, at 3:27 PM  

  • 1) I am going to have to side with Siliman. People are way too bacteria phobic. Yes, there is a risk of passing along pathogenic bacteria, viruses or fungi from a chalice. However, there are plenty of bacteria, viruses and fungi floating around in air that can contaminate a shot glass of wine in the few minutes between pouring, blessing (hope the pastor isn't sick) and consumption. Bacteria are everywhere and just because there is a bacteria present when cultured doesn't mean that there is enough present from the original sample to make you sick. In order for you to actually be sick from the microbe it has to out compete the many different microbes that are regular inhabitants of your GI tract and evade your immune system. Homebrewing is a different situation than the human body. First, the brewer would like to have a monoculture of yeast. Second, unless you are using yeast from a previous batch there isn't a normal flora to out compete invading microbes. Third, there isn't a system of continuously patrolling the brew and eliminating those microbes that make beer taste bad. As such, sanitation is much more vital for homebrewing than for the church chalice. That is not to say sanitation should not be stepped up on the chalice or that the immunocompromised should go ahead and take a big swig. Rather, a person that is healthy enough to attend church probably will not get sick from drinking the wine and is probably not harboring anything horribly pathogenic that time or a standard antibiotic can't cure.

    2) As there isn't a definative disease transmission problem with this topic, those that want to argue the theological basis for Common Cup v. Intinction v. Shot Glass can have fun.

    3)You have just talked to the wrong priests. People in the hospital recieve the host without wine frequently.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:55 PM  

  • Interesting thoughts. I would like to take this time to introduce an amalgamation of the shot glasses and common cup that my church uses. We have silver wine goblets and use one for each family (in the immediate sense, not extended, as my church is basically my extended family). I believe the cups are rotated as passed from family member to family member, but I'm not sure (we only have communion four times a year, and in college I miss it sometimes). This approach, unsure of the correct theology of it, but bacteria wise it contains any sort of harmful bacteria within the family, and I'm sure you know if the people you are living with are sick.

    By Blogger Jane, at 9:53 AM  

  • OT ... just noticed that we share many of the same "other places" links ... though you do have a shameful lack of HP related links ;)

    By Blogger TheAmber, at 5:00 PM  

  • Snopes and IMDB only...lol...I'd say you have a lack of oil, car, gun, lock, drug, physics, and urban exploration links.

    By Blogger Bob, at 11:33 PM  

  • umm actually just the Gun, oil, and locks ones ... The rest of them are all part of my "My Yahoo" links set up ... I just didn't link from any of my 'Blogs.

    By Blogger TheAmber, at 12:15 PM  

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